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Everything’s coming up rosy in Sanya

Sanya: As its landscape and hospitality features increasingly remind people of Hawaii and Dubai, a rose valley in Hainan province is emerging as an ecological and leisure lure that gives off a Claude Monet-style elegance and romance to the country’s only tropical province.
Wearing a bamboo hat and scarf to shield herself from the scorching sun, Li Yumei, a mother of three, and other local women carefully trim the rose plants that will begin to blossom in about a month at the Yalong Bay Inter­national Rose Valley in Sanya, at the southern tip of Hainan, which is building itself as an international tourist destination.
It is the spot President Xi Jinping visited some four years ago, where he donned a bamboo hat and posed for a photo with several women who work in the rose fields.
“I cherish the meeting with President Xi very much because since his visit to the rose valley on April 9, 2013, our life has been improving day by day. I was so excited seeing that President Xi was very concerned about our life that I involuntarily handed my bamboo hat to him when he came to talk to us in the field,” said Li.
That hat now hangs on the wall of Li’s sitting room as a token of blessing.
Li and her husband now live a much easier life, with an annual income of more than 60,000 yuan (RM38,192) from growing roses in the valley, which provides 50 million cut roses for the domestic market during the winter season.
This has led to growth in the tourist trade.
“We will soon recoup our investments of two million yuan (RM1.27mil). Room occupancy has never been a big concern since we started the family inn two years ago, because we have such a beautiful environment, with sweet rose gardens and a tropical rain forest park around us, and egrets dancing gracefully in the nearby wetlands,” said Tan Zhongxian, owner of one of the 14 family inns in Bohou, a village of 925 households of the Li people where the rose valley is located.
About 1km from Yalong Bay, a popular national resort district where a dozen international five-star hotels neighbour each other, the fragrant rose valley has unfolded further romance for Sanya and yielded new fortune over the past four years.
Villagers who used to make a living by growing rice, fishing and breeding poultry or by working outside as migrants now have upgraded living conditions and incomes and the local ecological and farming systems have improved.
“President Xi was keenly interested in our blossoming rose plants grown in the once alkaline soil and spoke highly of our business model,” said Yang Ying, board chairman of the Hainan Rose Valley Industry Development Co Ltd, developer of the rose valley.
The company rented 184ha of farmland from local villagers in 2009 to grow roses, at a cost of 49,500 yuan (RM31,509) per hectare and hired more than 500 villagers as workers. With support of local governments and agricultural scientists, the company has made great strides in conditioning the alkaline soil and experimenting to tame temperate roses so they can grow in tropical climates.
“He encouraged us to upgrade and industrialise our rose business, produce quality products, and develop tourism and take good care of the villagers’ interests to reach common prosperity,” said Yang, who accompanied Xi during his visit in 2013.
Xi’s statements made while visiting the valley have brought about changes there.
With the support and leadership of the local government, the company has turned the once needy villages into a complex for rose-growing and processing, as well as tourism and the hospitality business with a theme of beauty, romance and love that is based on a rose culture.
The valley, now growing more than 200 varieties of roses, including the prestigious Damascus roses, began to open to tourists in 2014, attracting 1.3 million tourists and earning more than 260mil yuan (RM165mil) from the sale of rose products and tourism last year, Yang said.
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